For a good while, I’ve been wanting to experience the “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” a meal traditionally served on Christmas Eve, generally by Italian American families. Although my ancestors were not Italian, I appreciate Italian food immensely. In this time of Covid especially, when the future seems even more precarious than usual, I’ve decided that some of the “do-able” things on my bucket list should be experienced while I am still able! Fortunately, my friends agreed that it sounded interesting and thus, the first of what may become an annual feast!
As the name indicates, it is a sumptious meal that includes at least seven different fish or seafood dishes. Apparently it became popular when religion dictated certain days, including Christmas Eve as non-meat meals. Our first course was appetizers: In the shell, my son-in-law Mark’s recipe for Clams Casino. Mark once owned a restaurant, lives part of each year in Italy and it shows in his excellent cooking. Top is his wife’s (my daughter Alicia) version of a low-carb crabcake with a Dijon mustard sauce. It has been a family favorite for several years. And bottom is my friend Sharon’s famous beet-horseradish cured salmon, which I begged her to bring because I’ve had it at her house at other parties. We all decided we’d be happy just eating these three dishes as the entire meal; they were SO delicious! But, that was only three and we were determined to do all seven.
This certainly doesn’t look like a typical salad, and I assure you it wasn’t, but it was definitely one of the very best salads I’ve ever eaten. My friend Ruth found the recipe on-line and assures me I can find it if I type in winter squash, fresh tuna salad. It’s fresh tuna, cranberries and Garam Masala baked in a winter squash, topped with sliced almonds. She even made the garam masala spice mixture from scratch! I’ll be serving this as a luncheon dish to friends often.
This soup took the longest of any dish I prepared for this feast. The day before I was to make a “Fish Broth” using the heads, bones and tails of fish, bay leaves, onion, peppercorns, parsley, white wine and water. Here in landlocked central Indiana there are no fish heads, etc. to be found unless I wanted to go fishing in a neighbor’s pond, and no fish stock available in stores so I purchased a piece of catfish, some vegetable stock, a bottle of clam juice and made do. Actually, the finished, strained broth was delicious. The next afternoon, 2″ pieces of cod, more bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley, garlic, and a splash of white wine vinegar were added to the warmed stock and cooked just until the cod was done. The fish was tasty, the broth had a bitterness none of us appreciated. What a disappointment! So, we ate the fish and tossed the broth. Luckily, there was better to come!
Another recipe from Mark, this pan-fried grouper with lemon and caper sauce was a big hit. Mark and Alicia even shipped the grouper to us from a company called “Wild Fork.” It was terrific, and it was only when I saw this photo that I realized I forgot to add the finely chopped parsley to the sauce! It was wonderful even without it!
Obviously, by the pasta course our appetites were not as hearty as when we started, but we still truly enjoyed this fettucini with shrimp and olives. It began with “melting” anchovies with garlic, olive oil, pepper and a bit of finely chopped hot red pepper. Then some chopped dried tomatoes, some diced tomatoes to provide liquid, chopped black and green olives, capers and when the pasta was almost cooked, the shrimp. I’d make this again today!
If you’ve been counting, that’s clams, crab, salmon; cod, tuna, grouper, anchovies and shrimp! Yes, we are over-achievers! There was barely room for dessert, but we managed.
Sharon teased that she’d turned some of the beet-cured salmon into a dessert, and it was almost believable since they were the same color! However, it was a luscious cranberry curd in a gingersnap crust. The perfect holiday, slightly tart ending to a rich feast!
So that was my “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” and I’m so very glad we did it. I hope we are all here to do it again next year….. but with a different soup!